July 16, 2001
Two weeks ago I went on a week-long vacation. Rain Barrel hasn't been updated in two weeks because I needed a week to recover from my vacation.
Instead of doing updates, I ended up watching many hours of Tour de France coverage.
I had never followed bike racing before and as I watched the TV coverage I imagined myself as some sort of ethnologist trying to determine what makes up the culture of professional cycling.
(My favourite cultural aspect of the Tour de France: if a rider is near the front of the pack when he is approaching his home village, it is tradition that the rest of the cyclists will slow down to allow that rider to not only take the lead for his homecoming, but to stop for hugs and a celebratory drink. This is incredible for a competition that can separate the winners from the losers by mere seconds.)
My task has made considerably easier because of the circumstances. The network that is providing the coverage of the month-long event is providing extensive television coverage for the first time for a North American audience. They have also recognized that if they want to increase their audience beyond existing cycling fans that they will have to do some education. So, using Lance Armstrong as a constant reference point ("What is this, the Tour de Lance?") they frequently interrupt their coverage with little "Tour de France" lessons.
Probably the most important Tour de France lesson is that a cyclist riding just behind another cyclist is blocked from the wind and that this can result in up 30% less effort for the trailing rider. This is why even riders from opposing teams will often take turns of the lead.
This became a metaphor that sprung to mind as I recently caught up on my blog reading and I browsed the ever wonderful boing boing, MeFi and other community weblogs. As one blogger must step away from the computer - to do freelance work, attend a conference, go on vacation - other bloggers take the lead and ensure a continual source of items for the reader.
They deserve the yellow jersey.
I will continue to aspire for the polka-dot one.